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Prince Albert Researchers Host One-Day Forum on Substance Use and Addiction

June 19, 2017

My breaking point was in November when I had to kick my son out one last time, and I haven’t seen him since; I’ve lost my parents and two brothers to addiction - it’s wiped out most of my mom’s side of the family; When you haven’t seen someone for awhile, you call the hospital and the jail, and if they’re not there, you just hope they walk through the door one day; I always knew I wanted more from my life, I wanted to be one of the happy families walking down the street, so I decided to get help. These were the kinds of stories told in Prince Albert on June 14th.

College of Nursing researchers from the Prince Albert Campus have positioned themselves to take a lead on research that will enhance clinical outcomes for people who use substances or suffer from substance abuse in Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan. Drs. Geoffrey Maina, Brenda Mishak and Anthony de Padua teamed up to host a one-day stakeholder community engagement and knowledge exchange forum for substance use and addiction in Prince Albert.

Service providers, policy makers, administrators, patients and family members, community leaders, law enforcement, school board representatives and scholars were among the over 50 attendees concerned about the state of substance use and addiction in Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan. This event became a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share their experiences and to explore ways to prevent and respond to the addiction crisis.

The morning kicked off with an opening prayer by elder Florence Allen, followed by presentations on the addiction landscape in Prince Albert. Dr. Francois Rossouw, an emergency and addiction physician, reminded attendees that people who struggle with addictions are not bad people and Dr. Leo Lenoie, an addictions specialist, stressed the importance of remembering that those who are often referred to as “addicts or junkies”, are humans with an addiction and should not be referred to by such defining terms. During a panel discussion with a client in recovery, a family member of a person living with addiction and an addiction counselor, a mother whose son has struggled with substance misuse for over a decade told the moving story about the impact addiction has had on her family, while also trying to lighten the mood and joking “our neighbours thought my husband worked for the police they were at our house so much.” And a strong young woman who had lived with addiction since she was 12 years old brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience as she talked about her fall into addiction, her diagnosis of Hepatitis C and HIV and her ongoing path to recovery.

Small group discussions dominated the rest of the day where stakeholders identified current strengths and opportunities for change in the delivery of substance use and addiction services. Attendees also identified the desired future state of available services where they outlined four priority areas that require attention - prevention of substance use and addiction that focus on upstream interventions, treatment, community interventions and harm reduction. Presenters from the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) and Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) stressed the importance of building capacity for patient/client led/informed interventions to improve client outcomes. The one-day forum ended with a promise by researchers to re-engage stakeholders in the near future to explore opportunities for collaboration in developing community-based, client led interventions that would improve the wellbeing of clients and families living with addiction in Prince Albert.

“I was extremely pleased with the turnout of this event, and overall, I consider it to be a major success in bringing together key players in substance use and addiction to reinvigorate us to devise culturally appropriate and client-centered interventions,” said Maina. "I want to thank all the presenters and forum participants who shared valuable insights as to the current situation in Prince Albert, as well as, ideas on how to move forward with the change we all desire. Although the goal of the forum was to identify priority needs for substance use research in Prince Albert, our team hopes this community initiative will lead to other projects that will improve clinical and social outcomes for clients with substance use and addiction.”

This event was funded in part by the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse – Prairie Node division.